We all know we’re “supposed” to have a website if we’re pursuing a career in publishing–but we’re not all sure exactly what we’re supposed to do with it! Today, JORDAN McCOLLUM explains how to apply seven secrets of successful website to your site.
In the past, I’ve blogged about nine things an author’s website must do, and seven things an author’s website must have (a guest post at Nathan Bransford’s blog). Today, we’re adding seven more secrets of successful sites—what your website must be:
Bottom line: a website’s no good to you if no one can find it. Make sure your website doesn’t block search engines, or put up any barriers to them finding your site. Links to your site with your name as the anchor text (the text of the link) can help search engines to find and rank your site for your name.
If possible, YourName.com or YourPenName.com is the best address for your site. Lots of free hosting services (including Blogger) will let you redirect your site to YourName.com (some for a modest fee). If YourName.com is taken, try to get something as close to that as possible by using initials (especially if you’re using them in your credits) or an extra word such as “author,” “writer” or “books.” Note that hyphens, i.e. Your-Name.com, are used less often and can be harder to remember.
Visitors to your website should be able to navigate easily and find what they’re looking for. Use an easy-to-understand set up: generally, websites have navigation links horizontally below the header and/or on the right or left sidebar. Also, think carefully about what you call the various areas of your site. “About me” or “Biography” is a lot easier to find and understand than “Everything you ever needed to know” or “100 things.”
Imagine you’ve just finished a book by a great new author and you head to her website to see if she has any others. Great, she has some listed—but how can you find them? She doesn’t say! Are they out of print? Do you have to order them through her? (How?) Should we resort to Amazon? Ooh . . . pretty books . . . what was that author’s name again? Ooh, sale!
Give your website visitors an easy way to get more of your books—give direct links to your books where they can buy them.
If you want your visitors to tell their friends about your site, make it easy on them. Include links to email articles from your blog, or share them on Facebook and Twitter. But even more important than making it easy to share your site is making your site worth sharing. Give your visitors an experience they’ll want others to have, whether that’s laughing, loving or learning, and then give them a way to share that experience.
Professional (yeah, I ran out of ables)
This site is your business card, your TV commercial, your sales flyer and your public persona all rolled into one. Being professional doesn’t mean being stodgy, but it does mean putting your best foot forward in attitude and appearance. Match your design and your writing style on your site to your chosen genre. You can be funny (even irreverent!)—and you should be if you’re writing humorous books—and still be professional.
(The same rule goes for your interactions all over the Internet!)
One of my pet peeves is visiting “thin” sites: sites with almost no content or information. You don’t have to be the next Wikipedia, but you should have enough information to draw visitors into your site, let them know who you are, maybe even let them see what you’re working on. One of my friends had an editor approach her about her book from what the editor read on her website. If you have your first pages or chapter polished for a contest or querying, I think it’s a good idea to make them available on your site as well. And don’t forget your About page—let us get to know you!
A fun site doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire somebody to create a bunch of animated games tangentially related to your works. A “fun” author’s site should include bonuses. It could be games or contests, or it could be something as simple as deleted scenes from a published book. If you’re lucky enough to have a group of dedicated fans, help them to interact and build a community (and don’t forget to participate!).
Whether you’re preparing to query or publishing your pentology, your author website can work for you and for your visitors. By making sure your site is findable, useable, shopable, shareable, professional, informative and fun, you’ll create an experience your website visitors will want to repeat, whether they’re agents, editors or readers.
Remember, I’ll be critiquing three lucky commenters’ sites! Critiques will be posted Thursday. (If you’d prefer not to be critiqued, just say so in the comment.)
Do you have a website? Is it all you want it to be, or does it need work?
Join us on Wednesday, May 11 when Douglas Mendini of Kensington Publishing shares his marketing knowledge with us. And don’t forget to come back on Thursday, May 12 to read Jordan’s critique of three websites, chosen from today’s commenters. (Be sure to include a link to your website if you’d like to be considered for a critique.)
Jordan McCollum is an award-winning aspiring author, but she’s also a mother, wife, knitter, baker, and blogger—and busy! She formerly worked in search engine marketing and was editor of Marketing Pilgrim, an Internet marketing news blog, until last year.
Jordan is on Facebook here.
Visit her website here: http://jordanmccollum.com/
- Jordan McCollum on Websites, Part II: The Critiques
- And the winners are…
- The Who, What and How of Book Reviews with Tammie King of Night Owl Reviews
- Q & A with Douglas Mendini, Kensington Publishing
- How to Survive and Thrive in the Publishing House Slush Pile with Shelly Ellis